Happy Birthday Fats Domino!

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Today I’m talkin’ bout the man who had more chart-topping hits than any other early rock and roll artist except Elvis. Survived Hurricane Katrina to be rescued by helicopter, and once jumped out a window to escape a riot at his own show. Yep, there’s no one like piano-man Fats Domino. Born Antoine Domino in New Orleans, he left school at 14 to work in a factory by day and a club by night. By the age of 22, when he made his first solo recording, he’d gotten pretty good. Killer compositions on a smokin’ set of keys.

Five years later he’d landed multiple gold records, a massive crossover hit, and developed his own sound. Which came to typify the spirit of New Orleans. Fat’s songs have been covered by everyone from Cheap Trick to Neil Young to Russian leader Vladimir Putin [watch video].

There’s just no escaping the influence of a titan like Fats Domino. And guess what? I wouldn’t want to. Here’s the man himself with his first big hit. From 1955, “Ain’t That a Shame.”

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fats3Antoine “Fats” Domino Jr. was born February 26, 1928.  Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, he had his first hit with 1950’s “the Fat Man” on Imperial Records. He’d already released five gold records by 1955, when he crossed into the mainstream with “Ain’t That A Shame.” His biggest hit came in ’56, with the song “Blueberry Hill,” which sold more than five million copies in its first year alone. That popularity lead to a riot at one of his shows, during which the big man himself had to jump out a window to escape tear gas and an unruly crowd. Fats continued to tour until 1980, when he decided he would no longer leave New Orleans for touring…mostly cause he said he couldn’t find food he liked to eat any where else. Not even a phone call from the White House inviting him to perform persuaded him to leave his hometown cooking and his famous pink Cadillac. Fats remained in New Orleans, until 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated his home. Initially presumed dead, Fats was airlifted by a coast guard helicopter and taken to a Baton Rouge shelter. As soon as he could, he returned to his beloved New Orleans, where he resides to this day.